The Perfect Love Song A Christmas Story by Patti Callahan Henry

Patti Callahan Henry is an American novelist. She is the New York Times bestselling author of fifteen books, including the historical novel, BECOMING MRS. LEWIS – The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis and also her June 2019, contemporary Southern fiction THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER. This novel is also reviewed here on The Grateful Reader.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“The holiday season sometimes fills us with unrealistic expectations”-so true, isn’t it? The Perfect Love Song is a story of brotherly love, life-long friendships, finding true love; and even recognizing God’s perfect love through those He places in our lives. Patti Callahan Henry takes the reader on a magical Christmas journey; from the Southern Lowcountry in South Carolina, to Rockefeller Center in NYC, and over the ocean to Galway Bay in Ireland.

The main character, Kara Larson, is highly influenced and her young , “soon to be wed” life story, impacted by an elderly Irish woman, Maeve Mahoney. Maeve is from Galway, Ireland, and she willingly shares her wisdom on life and love relationships with Kara. Truly appreciated are the quotes at the beginning of each chapter from Maeve to Kara. Some are Maeve’s own; some Old Irish Proverbs. Either way, the story and the sayings will give the reader much “food for thought” to reflect and ponder during quiet, stolen moments during the coming Christmas season.

The Grateful Reader hopes your holiday expectations and romantic visions do come true. Treat yourself to an early Christmas present by reading The Perfect Love Song; and then relish the “joy of giving” in this season of God’s perfect love, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

“Your feet will bring you to where your heart is.” Old Irish Proverb

The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring which represents love, loyalty, and friendship. The design and customs associated with it originated in the Irish fishing village of the same name in Galway. The ring, as currently known, was first produced in the 17th century.

The Legend of the Claddagh Ring-told by Gina Alward-

The legend of the Claddagh ring dates back five hundred years to the fishing village of Claddagh, just outside of Galway city. The men from Claddagh would go out to sea to fish for food for their families, and back in this time, such a task posed many dangers. Currents were strong, the weather was changing, and the sea was bound to seduce the most deadly risk of all: pirates.

On one fateful day, a young man named Richard Joyce was fishing at sea with other members of his family. A Spanish pirate ship who was also sailing along the coast, captured poor Richard and his family and brought them to the North Coast of Africa, selling them all into slavery.

Richard, who was a silversmith and the youngest of his family members, was the most devastated. All of these men had left their loved ones behind, but Richard had only just met his one true love and now feared he would not live to ever see her again.

Years had passed since his captivation, and while some of his family members had died during these years, Richard continued to yearn for his love and remained hopeful of one day returning to Claddagh. To help keep his spirits high, Richard would steal tiny specks of gold from his slave masters each day while tending to their fire in the goldsmith shop. Throughout his years of hard labour, he slowly fashioned a ring from this gold, with a hope of someday returning to his village to present this ring to his beloved.

At last, Richard finally made his way back to Claddagh. Whether he escaped or was released from slavery, no one knows for certain. Needless to say, upon his return, he was thrilled to learn that his beloved had remained faithful to him throughout these daunting and gruelling years, waiting for the day that they could be reunited.

And it was on that day that Richard gave her his ring – the ring that is now known around the world as the Claddagh Ring.

The Claddagh design consists of a heart, held by two hands with a crown resting upon it. The heart symbolizes the love that Richard longed to share with his true love; the crown symbolizes their undying loyalty to one another; and the hands symbolize their friendship, which is, after all, the very foundation of all love. This design became very popular as an engagement or wedding ring, particularly in Galway, the Aran Islands, and Connemara, and in fact, the Claddagh design is featured in various types of jewelry and art all across the country.

How this ring is worn is also very important in Irish culture. If the Claddagh is worn on the ring finger of the right hand with the heart pointing outwards, it means the wearer’s heart has yet to be won. If the ring is worn on the same hand and finger, with the heart pointing inward toward the heart, it means the wearer’s heart belongs to another. If the ring is then worn on the ring finger of the left hand with the heart pointing outward, this indicates the wearer is engaged to be married, and if the ring is pointing inward on the same hand, it means the wearer is married.

Receive The Perfect Love Song and the Legend of the Claddagh Ring as a gift you will cherish and share for many Christmases to come. TGR

Before and After by Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate

Publication Day- October 22, 2019

Judy Christie is an author and consultant who lives in Northwest Louisiana. She writes inspirational fiction and nonfiction. Her popular Green series chronicles the goings-on in the small Louisiana town of Green and is part of Abingdon Press’s new inspirational fiction line.

Lisa Wingate is a former journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the bestselling author of more than thirty books. Her blockbuster “Before We Were Yours” was on the NYT best seller list for over one year. Her work has won or been nominated for many awards, including the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, the Oklahoma Book Award, the Utah Library Award, the Carol Award, the Christy Award, and the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. Lisa believes stories can change the world.

Be sure to read this novel first! : “THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT–A New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller For readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale comes a “thought-provoking and] complex tale about two families, two generations apart. . . based on a notorious true-life scandal.”…. Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals–in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country–Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong. *Library Journal Publishers Weekly’s #3 Longest-Running Bestseller of 2017” –

The Grateful Reader Review: by Dorothy Schwab

Incredible. Real life. These two descriptors will grab the reader from the cover to the last page. Readers often think, which part is really true; which is fictionalized by the author?For readers of historical fiction this NONFICTION sequel is a “dream come true!” The phenomenal novel, Before We Were Yours,written by Lisa Wingate, is a fictional account of a family torn apart by Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, ( TCHS). Documents show that the TCHS was in operation in Memphis, from 1924-1950. Many factors, such as the Great Depression, WWll & the Holocaust, contributed to a very turbulent time in the lives of American families. Poverty stricken or unwed mothers in desperation; even hard working parents who couldn’t afford to care for their children, added to the many years of disturbing statistics while the TCHS was in operation. In the last two years, the success and popularity of Before We Were Yours garnered the attention of many friends and family of the real-life adoptees and their families. As word of the fictional novel spread, the adoptees/survivors, now in the final years of their lives, began to emerge; to share and reveal their heart wrenching memories and true stories.

In Before and After Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate have compiled the memories and stories revealed in letters, phone interviews, face to face meetings, even FaceTime. The anguish and heart ache revealed is certainly hard to read and digest; that such cruelty existed for so long. As a reunion of adoptees and families comes to fruition, the real heroes are the courageous survivors that braced themselves and their families to face the past. Many found siblings and cousins, along with love and redemption, at the end of a life-long search.

“Where are you? Do you look like me? Are you like me in any way? ” Letter from a TCHS adoptee to her unknown birth family.

The Lost Daughter

The story of Anastasia Romanov’s sister, Maria, and her fight for love. Gill Paul’s beautiful website:

“Gill Paul specializes in relatively recent history, mostly 20th century, and enjoys re-evaluating real historical characters and trying to get inside their heads.

Gill also writes historical non-fiction, including A History of Medicine in 50 Objects and series of Love Stories. Published around the world, this series includes Royal Love Stories, World War I Love Stories and Titanic Love Stories. ”

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Romanov-A name long associated with family tragedy. Ekaterinburg, July 17, 1918- The centenary of the brutal murder of the Russian Tsar, Tsarina and their children is what prompted Gill Paul to imagine the survival of Maria. Maria was considered the “most beautiful” of the four girls and physically strong, since it is well documented she was able to carry sickly Alexei, the Tsarevitch, on her own. The reader is immediately introduced in the prologue to the militant men from a metallurgy works, as each are assigned a member of the royal family on that fateful night.

The girls in birth order: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia—Maria, a bubbly, outgoing 19 year old, who has been overly protected her entire life, is naive for her age. The family has been under house arrest since the revolution in February 1917, so out of boredom Maria is quite friendly with the house guards. This perky personality is what leads Maria on a journey of survival, true love, and forgiveness.

The dual timeline transports the reader to Sydney, Australia, in the 1970’s, where Val lives with husband Tony, and daughter, Nicole. Val’s Russian father has his own secrets and treasures in a safety deposit box. After his death, her father’s revealing last words, heard by a nurse mumbled while dying of dementia, leads Val down a path in her family history that she never knew existed. Val knows her father is Russian, but he’s never talked about his time before coming to Australia. (There’s so much history to be learned: many Russians did eventually migrate to Manchuria and Australia after the revolution; and another wave in the 1920’s.) The reader will be anxious to find the secrets hidden from Val by her father and her long, lost mother. Why does Val’s father never reveal his past and why did her mother leave her?

Completely drawn in to the plausible scenario, The Grateful Reader, highly recommends this novel to those who have read all the Romanov and Anastasia novels. The Historical Afterword is as compelling and informative as the love story of Maria Romanov is spellbinding .

From the splendor of the ostentatious Russian palaces to the cold, damp basement at Ipatiev; let yourself think: if only….. Five Stars *****

The following are photographs of locations, palaces, and items mentioned in The Lost Daughter.

Follow the Grateful Reader for more historical fiction reviews.

The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar

A stunning story about the Women Airforce Service Pilots whose courage during World War II turned ordinary women into extraordinary heroes

Noelle Salazar was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, where she’s been a Navy recruit, a medical assistant, an NFL cheerleader and always a storyteller. As a novelist, she has done extensive research into the Women Airforce Service Pilots, interviewing vets and visiting the training facility—now a museum dedicated to the WASP—in Sweetwater, Texas. When she’s not writing, she can be found dodging raindrops and daydreaming of her next book. Noelle lives in Bothell, Washington, with her husband and two children. The Flight Girls is her first novel.

A HISTORY OF THE WOMEN AIRFORCE SERVICE PILOTS In 1942, as the country reeled from the attack on Pearl Harbor, trained male pilots were in short supply. Qualified pilots were needed to fight the war. The Army also was desperate for pilots to deliver newly built trainer aircraft to the flight schools in the South. Twenty-eight experienced civilian women pilots volunteered to take those ferrying jobs. They formed the country’s first female squadron late summer 1942. To read more go to :

Pearl Harbor is a U.S. naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii, that was the scene of a devastating surprise attack by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. Just before 8 a.m. on that Sunday morning, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes descended on the base, where they managed to destroy or damage nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight battleships, and over 300 airplanes. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack, including civilians, and another 1,000 people were wounded. The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Audrey Fitzgerald Coltrane has spent her whole life flying and plans to own her own airfield-in Texas. In 1941 as the war in Europe had begun, Audrey heads to Oahu, Hawaii, to train military pilots. Audrey has already decided her path will not lead to matrimony and babies-she has other plans, big plans. “Then one fateful day, she gets caught in the air over Pearl Harbor just as the bombs begin to fall, and suddenly, nowhere feels safe.” This story of Audrey and the other women pilots that fly and train the men that will ultimately defend our country is amazing and surprising. The amazing amount of courage and vulnerability involved to accomplish what they did and so surprising, but sad, that it took until the late 1970’s for the Women Airforce Service Pilots to be recognized. Read for yourselves, the history of the WASP Museum in Sweetwater, Texas, and refresh the events of December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor. I found the history of the WASP as compelling as the story of Audrey and her fellow pilots. The Flight Girls is an enlightening novel; one that also inspires women to follow dreams and seek the freedom to fly and soar like a bird.

“What I learned from the women of the WASP…is that there is always a breeze. We can either hunker down and hide from it, or we can spread our wings and fly.” Noelle Salazar

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

A beautiful scarf, passed down through the generations, connects two women who learn that the weight of the world is made bearable by the love we give away….

Susan Meissner was born in San Diego, California, the second of three. She spent her childhood in just two houses. She attended Point Loma College in San Diego, and married her husband, Bob, who is now an associate pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, in 1980. When she is not working on a new novel, she is directing the small groups ministries at The Church at Rancho Bernardo. She also enjoys teaching workshops on writing and dream-following, spending time with family, music, reading great books, and traveling.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Touched by tragedy, a century apart, Clara Wood and Taryn Michaels are connected by a century old scarf. Clara, is a nurse on Ellis Island, after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, and Taryn is a widow raising her daughter alone, after the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers. The timeline of the historical events in 1911 are set against the contemporary events of September 11, 2001. Clara and Taryn each face situations that can only be described as ethical dilemmas. These choices make for great self evaluation and also revealing group discussions. I specifically appreciated the description of the events of September 11, from the perspective of a terrified observer on the street as that horrible day unfolded. Not that this is “enjoyable,” but that Susan Meissner takes you to the street level among the masses of struggling people with her words; her vivid descriptions; you are there. Clara and Taryn also find themselves in that “in between place” as survivors of tragedy. This is another compelling thread for self analysis and group discussion: Do you believe in destiny; that God has a purpose for each of our lives? A Fall of Marigolds will provide the reader with historical insights and personal reflection for years to come. GR*****

“The scarf billowed up between us, soft and eager to fly. I caught a whiff of fragrance in its threads, delicate and sweet. In the sunlight it looked less like fire and more like a burst of monarch butterflies. I could see a cascading fall of marigolds splashed across the fabric.”

New York City the day Taryn is supposed to meet Kent.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory One Year Later: “The tragedy brought widespread attention to the dangerous sweatshop conditions of factories, and led to the development of a series of laws and regulations that better protected the safety of workers.” Notice the FIRE ESCAPE sign!

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City on March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city, and one of the deadliest in U.S. history. WikipediaDate: March 25, 1911

LocationTriangle Shirtwaist Factory, New York,

NY Number of deaths: 146 Injuries: 78

Owner: Two weeks after the fire, a grand jury indicted Triangle Shirtwaist owners Isaac Harris and Max Blanck on charges of manslaughter.

Ellis Island: Clara arrived here to work in the hospital after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

The registry hall on Ellis Island, N.Y., in the early-1900s. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Ribbons of Scarlet by Stephanie Dray, Heather Webb, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, Eliza Knight, & Laura Kamoie

Available October 1, 2019
Pre-order a copy signed by all six authors!
Historical figures and places are featured at the end of this post. Links are included for your further reading enjoyment!

The Authors in Order of Chapters Presented in Ribbons of Scarlet

The Philosopher by Stephanie Dray Blue-blooded Sophie de Grouchy

The Revolutionary by Heather Webb – The fruit-seller Louise Audu

The Princess by Sophie Perinot-Princess Elisabeth, sister to King Louis XVI

The Politician by Kate Quinn -Political wife Manon Roland

The Assassin by Eliza Knight- Pauline Leon and Charlotte Corday

The Beauty by Laura Kamoie-The most beautiful woman in Paris, Emilie de Sainte-Amaranthe

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Mesdames & Messieurs, The French Revolution. King Louis XVI. Marie Antoinette. And six amazingly strong and courageous women-all from complex and diverse backgrounds. The authors have each written the story of one woman or family so that the reader gets a completely different perspective on the French Revolution from each chapter. I was completely enthralled by the history and details and how skillfully & seamlessly each chapter flowed into the next; exquisite writing and details from each author. I felt the angst of Sophie not wanting to marry but delighted in her eventual discovery of true love and admired how she showed compassion for those less fortunate by opening a school. From Louise, Pauline, and Charlotte, the reader comes face to face with hunger & poverty and their effects on an entire population. Then there’s the royalty and “beauties” – Elisabeth and Emelie. The revolution from their perspective was equally eye-opening-to be a part of the family of the king and queen and to feel their anguish and fright, was a different view, for sure. The plight of women in Paris in the spring of 1786, the French aristocrat, Lafayette, and Robespierre, all have a voice in Ribbons of Scarlet. You’ll find yourself in parades, marches, salons, the Bastille, Tuileries,Versailles, jolted about in carriages, and holding your nose at the stench of the jail cells; but the Grateful Reader can guarantee that you’ll be proud and emboldened by the women that have gone before us as you read and become enthralled with The Ribbons of Scarlet. Guaranteed *****

“The wind kicked up, pulling the shawl free of my shoulders, and I met Sophie’s tear-filled gaze as it sailed on the breeze toward her, a ribbon of scarlet upon the wind.”

Louis XVI, born Louis-Auguste, was the last King of France before the fall of the monarchy during the French Revolution. He was referred to as citizen Louis Capet during the four months before he was guillotined.

Marie Antoinette was the last Queen of France before the French Revolution. She was born an Archduchess of Austria and was the penultimate child and youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. 

Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre was a French lawyer and politician, as well as one of the best known and most influential figures associated with the French Revolution.

Bastille Day is a holiday celebrating the storming of the Bastille—a military fortress and prison—on July 14, 1789, in a violent uprising that helped usher in the French Revolution. Besides holding gunpowder and other supplies valuable to revolutionaries, the Bastille also symbolized the callous tyranny of the French monarchy, especially King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette.

The Tuileries Palace was a royal and imperial palace in Paris which stood on the right bank of the River Seine. It was the usual Parisian residence of most French monarchs, from Henry IV to Napoleon III, until it was burned by the Paris Commune in 1871.

The Palace of Versailles was the principal royal residence of France from 1682, under Louis XIV, until the start of the French Revolution in 1789, under Louis XVI. It is located in the department of Yvelines, in the region of Île-de-France, about 20 kilometres southwest of the centre of Paris.

The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

“Meg Waite Clayton  is a New York Timesbestselling author of the forthcoming THE LAST TRAIN TO LONDON (HarperCollins, Sept 10, 2019), the #1 Amazon fiction bestseller BEAUTIFUL EXILES, the Langum-Prize honored national bestseller THE RACE FOR PARIS — recommended reading by Glamour Magazine and the BBC, and an Indie Next Booksellers’ pick — and THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS, one of Entertainment Weekly’s “25 Essential Best Friend Novels” of all time. Her THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT was a finalist for the Bellwether Prize (now PEN/Bellwether Prize), and she’s written essays for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Runner’s World, Writer’s Digest and lots of other swanky publications she never imagined she might! “

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

The Last Train to London is the story of how one Dutch woman changed the lives of thousands of children in 1938-1939. Geertruida Wijsmuller-Tante Truus, to the children of Vienna, made it her life work to rescue Jewish children, with an effort known as Vienna Kindertransport.

This is an emotional tale of a woman’s love for children, her pain at the loss of several of her own and her unending love and dedication to her husband Joop and of course, to the thousands of children she rescued. Tante Truus’ story is told through the lives of Stephan Neumann, son of a wealthy chocolatier, and Sofie-Helene, the child prodigy and daughter of a newspaper journalist, Kathe Perger. Stephan’s little brother, Walter and his rabbit, Peter, along with JoJo, Sofie-Helene’s 3 year old sister will also pull at your heartstrings. Will Stephan, Sofie-Helene, and siblings make the cut for the first 600 to leave Vienna? Will all of them escape and be joined with new families as they make attempts to obtain visas and leave Vienna? What becomes of the parents left behind? What becomes of all those children?

The journey of the children, their unbelievable endurance of the pain and suffering involved in being sent away to “safety,” and the unimaginable courage on the part of the parents; will not soon leave the mind or heart of the readers of The Last Train to London.

Sofie-Helene is my absolute favorite character! She is a math genius with extraordinary skills and abilities to make herself “figure” right into the plans of Tante Truus. She sleuthed her way into Stephan’s heart and you’ll discover she’s got a formula that equals love for all of us.

Here are some images and links to some of the real life characters mentioned in the book that will help the reader:

Kindertransport (Children’s Transport) was the informal name of a series of rescue efforts which brought thousands of refugee Jewish children to Great Britain from Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1940.Kindertransport, 1938–40 | The Holocaust Encyclopedia

” Resistance worker GeertruidaWijsmuller fought courageously to save thousands of Jews from certain deathat the hands of the Nazis. Geertruida, or Truus, as her friends called her, wasborn into a prosperous well-connected family and lived in Amsterdam. In December1938, Truus went to meet Adolph Eichmann in Vienna to request permission for600 Jewish children to leave Austria for England. She was given permission totake 600 Jewish children to England under the provision that they leave withinfive days.  “

“Otto Adolf Eichmann wasa German-Austrian Nazi SS-Obersturmbannführer and one of the major organizersof the Holocaust. “

Stefan Zweig was anAustrian novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer. At the height of hisliterary career, in the 1920s and 1930s, he was one of the most popular writersin the world.”